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Taiwan tells the US it hopes to sign a free trade agreement

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TAIPEI – Taiwan’s chief trade negotiator John Deng said on Wednesday that he told the United States that he hopes the two can sign a free trade agreement, an agreement that would be a strong show of American support in the face of relentless Chinese pressure. against the island.

The two sides held the delayed talks on the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, or TIFA, virtually. These stalled after former US President Barack Obama left office in 2016 and the trade representative of his successor Donald Trump, Robert Lighthizer, turned his attention to China, the world’s second-largest economy.

Deng told reporters that he had raised the issue of a free trade agreement directly during the eight hours of talks.

“We express to the United States that Taiwan hopes to sign a trade agreement,” he said. “We believe that if we continue to work hard, one day we will achieve our goal.”

The office of the U.S. Trade Representative said during the talks that U.S. officials emphasized the importance of the U.S.-Taiwan trade relationship and both sides expressed support for working together to enhance the security and resilience of the supply chain.

The Biden administration has moved to reaffirm its commitment to the democratically governed island in the face of pressure from Beijing to attempt to assert its sovereignty.

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Taiwan has long sought a free trade agreement with the United States, although any such agreement with Taiwan would likely irritate Beijing, which says the island is Chinese territory and has no right to state-to-state relations.

A bipartisan group of 42 US senators wrote this week to US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, asking her to “take steps to begin laying the groundwork for the negotiation of a free trade agreement (FTA) or other preliminary agreement with Taiwan. “according to a copy of the letter seen by Reuters.

“Maintaining the economic influence of the United States in the region and reducing Taiwan’s dependence on China is essential to ensure that the region remains free and open,” the letter said.

Deng’s deputy Yang Jen-ni said the two had also discussed expanding COVID-19 vaccine supplies through technology sharing or licensed production.

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While Taiwan is a member of the World Trade Organization, many countries are wary of signing trade deals with the tech powerhouse for fear of objections from China, although Taiwan has free trade agreements with Singapore and New Zealand.

Taiwan is a major semiconductor producer, the shortage of which has shaken global supply chains and affected automakers in particular, as far as Washington is concerned, which has pressured Taiwan to accelerate its production.

Last year, the Taiwanese government lifted a ban on the import of pork that contains a thinness-enhancing additive, ractopamine, removing a major roadblock to a deal with Washington. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Yimou Lee; Additional reporting by Michael Martina in Washington; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)

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In-depth reports on the economics of innovation from The Logic, presented in association with the Financial Post.

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